A visit to three of Johannesburg’s best-known museums is a must for anyone wanting to understand South Africa’s political past.

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Constitutional Hill

20 minutes driving time | 12 km / 7.5mi

There is perhaps no other site of incarceration in South Africa that imprisoned the sheer number of world-renowned men and women as those held within the walls of Constitution Hill’s Old Fort, Women’s Jail and Number Four. Nelson Mandela. Mahatma Gandhi. Joe Slovo. Albertina Sisulu. Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. Fatima Meer. They all served time here, but the precinct also confined tens of thousands of ordinary people during its 100-year history. They were men and women of all races, creeds, ages and political agendas; children too, the everyman and the elite. In this way, the history of every South African lives here.

Constitution Hill is a living museum that tells the story of South Africa’s journey to democracy. The site is a former prison and military fort that bears testament to South Africa’s turbulent past and, today, is home to the country’s Constitutional Court, which endorses the rights of all citizens.

Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre

14 minutes driving time | 9 km / 5mi

The Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre explores the history of genocide in the 20th century with a focus on the case studies of the Holocaust and the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. It examines the connections between genocide and contemporary human rights issues, urging visitors to understand the consequences of prejudice, discrimination, and othering, to prevent the recurrence of mass atrocities and genocide in all its forms.

Apartheid Museum

30 minutes driving time | 20 km /12mi

The Apartheid Museum opened in 2001 and is acknowledged as the pre-eminent museum in the world dealing with 20th century South Africa, at the heart of which is the apartheid story.


The exhibits have been assembled and organised by a multi-disciplinary team of curators, film-makers, historians and designers. They include provocative film footage, photographs, text panels and artefacts illustrating the events and human stories that are part of the horrific period in our history, known as apartheid.

Museum Africa

30 minutes driving time | 20 km /12mi

Museum Africa, Johannesburg’s major history and cultural history museum, is housed in the Newtown Cultural Precinct’s old fruit and vegetable market – which was built in 1913 and has now been imaginatively converted into a modern building. A huge collection of objects, paintings and photographs has been collected since 1935, telling the story of South Africa.